Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson is arguing that a lawsuit filed against him by a Portland business owner is an attempt to stifle his First Amendment rights.
Gibson filed a motion to have the suit dismissed as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, commonly referred to as an anti-SLAPP motion.
He makes the case that the lawsuit is politically motivated in part because local politicians have expressed support for Cider Riot's owner in the wake of a clash at the Portland bar between Gibson's controversial protest group Patriot Prayer and antifascists on May 1.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) tweeted support for Abram Goldman-Armstrong, the bar's owner. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler questioned why lawyer James Buchal, chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, agreed to represent Gibson. Wheeler said he was puzzled by Buchal's legal support for a protest organizer who encourages violence between antifascists and police.
Gibson says in the motion: "It has never been my goal to get Antifa to agitate against Portland Police officers."
He told WW in 2017 that it was a "win-win" for his movement if antifascists fought police. "We want that on camera," he said at the time. "We want people to see that."
Gibson acknowledged his past statements and even acknowledged that antifascists fighting with police is good for his political agenda, but pointed to other statements he's made supporting law enforcement officers.
On May 1, Gibson approached Cider Riot with a group of his supporters who had been following antifascists at various May Day rallies throughout the day. The demonstrations had unfolded peacefully, without escalating beyond shouting in most cases.
A group of antifascist protesters had gathered on the outdoor patio at Cider Riot in the evening. Gibson and his supporters approached the business, shouting at the protesters who were sitting on the patio.
The confrontation escalated into a street fight in which a woman was clubbed on the back of the head by one of Gibson's followers. Members of both groups pepper sprayed one another. Two men engaged in a fist fight.
Goldman-Armstrong filed a lawsuit against Gibson for instigating the fight and encouraging his supporters to leave damaging comments on his business's social media accounts and Yelp page.
Today, along with seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, Gibson also filed a motion for a change of venue, suggesting he cannot get a fair hearing in Multnomah County.
That motion points to news articles by WW, the Oregonian, KGW, the Portland Tribune and other local publications, which often focus on bad behavior by Gibson's supporters and the individuals who oppose his group. He calls the news coverage a "hostile media environment."
He claims the only "unbiased and fair reporting" on Patriot Prayer came in the form of an op-ed in the Oregonian by conservative columnist Elizabeth Hovde, in which she described one small rally in Washington and failed to detail any of the several events Gibson organized that resulted in violence.
The motion also turns to conservative videographer Andy Ngo, who signed a declaration giving his account of the May 1 incident outside of Cider Riot. An Oregon State University student, Noah Bucchi, who was filming for a documentary on May 1 also filed a declaration, saying antifascists damaged his camera equipment. Both Ngo and Bucchi say their declarations are not in support of either side of the lawsuit.